The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)

The Girl on the Train

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been one of the hottest book club picks around for a couple of years now. It is a thriller written from the points of view of three complicated, troubled women: Anna, Megan, and Rachel (the main character).

I picked this book to read because it has been so popular for such a long time, and I like to keep at least sorta-up on to date on these types of books, considering that I work as a library clerk. It makes it easier to chat with customers about different types of books, and make recommendations if I am well-read in more genres that just my favourite one or two. And lately, I’ve just been in a bit of a book rut so it was time to read a few outside of romance / erotica!

I liked the pacing of The Girl on the Train. It is an easy read that I got through in two sittings. I felt that the outcome of the novel was hidden for most of the novel, although I did suspect the killer’s identity several chapters before Rachel did.

One of things that I appreciated was the author’s decision to not make any particular characters the “good guys”. Every single character from the Rachel to the police officers and the “red-haired man in the train station” were flawed people, everyone with something to hide, to prove, to overcome. It helped the story to stay grounded in my opinion and stopped me from assuming the character’s POV as my own. I didn’t particularly cheer for any one or root against the other.

Overall, I did find this book to be entertaining but I am not sure why it received as much attention as it did. I can definitely name several books along this line that I would recommend much more strongly to another reader, The House Between Tides for one. This story was good, I just didn’t find it to be particularly memorable.

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The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game is a 2014 blockbuster film telling the story of Bletchley Park’s code-breaking team, which was charged with cracking the “unbreakable” German code Enigma, during WWII. It follows the efforts of Alan Turing and co, as well as telling us of Alan’s heartbreaking personal story, from childhood to his death in 1951.

Alan Turing and his team solved the Enigma Code, and it is estimated that their doing so ended the war two years earlier and saved 14 million lives.  That fact that the Enigma Code was broken remained a state secret for 50 years.

If this had not been a historical film, I would have said that the writers needed to go back to the drawing board.  Despite not knowing much about this topic, I was able to foretell many aspects of the plot, including Christopher’s fate, the identity of the Soviet spy and “the sacrifice”.

Clearly, this film is based on historical fact though and somehow, that makes it all forgiven. At the base of it, this wasn’t a spy thriller; being able to see the outcome did not ruin the movie. It was a dramatic retelling of some of England’s best – and worst – moments in the 1940s and 50s.

One thing that struck me throughout the film, was how different things were then, from now. A 25 year old woman was almost barred from being a member of the team, based upon her gender, and then further prevented from joining because of her parents’ objections.  It was indecent for her to work on a project with five men, and to work for the war effort instead of hunting for a suitable husband. Likewise, I had no idea that in the 1950s, homosexuality in Great Britain was punishable by custodial sentence or chemical castration.

I had wanted to watch The Imitation Game when it was released last year but I never got around to it.  I have always been interested in history, and took multiple classes in secondary school and uni, but somehow missed ever learning about Turing or the Enigma Code.  The Eric Walters book, Enigma, which I just read about was also based on war efforts occurring a Bletchley Park, so it was an interesting parallel to finish both this weekend.  I definitely want to go and learn more.

The movie was nominated for 8 Oscars, including Best Picture of the Year, and ultimately won for Best Writing (adapted screenplay). Not surprising, considering it starred fantastic fan-favourite actors including Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech and Charles Dance.

It was a remarkable film that I am so thankful I made the time to watch this weekend. I highly recommend it.

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